Potted Ponds:
Creating a Water Garden Oasis in a Pot

Most container gardeners grow veggies, herbs, or flowers in their pots and are happy to have a little extra greenery on the balcony, windowsill, or back patio. There’s one type of container garden that is consistently overlooked by beginner and experienced gardeners alike – the potted pond.

Potted ponds remove the need to install large water features in your yard or garden, replacing them with small, ornate water gardens that are completely contained in a single pot. They’re versatile, relatively easy to put together, and make for an amazing accent in the garden.

Making a Potted Pond - Creating a Water Garden Oasis in a Pot

While you can make potted ponds a complex project, at their most simple they only require four items:

Pot: Choose a pot without drainage holes, or you’ll need to line it with plastic to prevent leakage. Ceramic, porcelain, cement, metal, or even plastic pots will do, if they’re well-made. Avoid using wood, so you don’t have any issues with wood rot.

Plant Liners: Any non-floating plant will need to be housed in a soil-filled plant liner to prevent your potted pond from being clouded with dirt. As far as specific recommendations go, Smart Pots are flexible, water-tolerant pots that make a great potted pond plant liner.

Soil: A high-quality topsoil and some gravel to cover it with is more than enough to keep your plants alive.

Plants: Aquatic plants are split into two categories: floating and potted. The specific plants you should use are covered in more detail below.

Water Bubbler (optional): These are a nice touch if you want to add a fountain-like effect to your pond.

Plastic Sheeting (optional): You may need to line your pot with plastic sheeting if you fear leaks and cracks, or are simply using a pot made of a very porous material.

Assembly of your potted pond is simple:

  1. Line your pot with plastic sheeting, if applicable
  2. Pot your plants with good topsoil, and add gravel on top to prevent soil leakage
  3. Place your plants in your pot
  4. Add fresh water to your pot
  5. Add floating aquatic plants to the top of your pot
  6. Add your water feature, if you decide to use one

That’s all there is to it. Try to place your potted pond in an area that gets sun in the morning but isn’t blasted by the sun’s rays all day long. This protects the sensitive aquatic plants from being burned, as well as reduces the amount of water your pond loses every day to evaporation.

The Best Aquatic Plants - Creating a Water Garden Oasis in a Pot

Once you’ve gathered the raw materials for your potted pond, you need to select the right plants. There are two categories of aquatic plants: floating plants and potted plants. It’s a good idea to have a mixture of these two categories to add variety to your garden and not overcrowd the pot.

Potted Aquatic Plants

Potted aquatic plants are simply plants that do well in extremely wet environments, but still must draw their nutrition from soil of some kind. These are the ones that must go in your plant liners and then be placed in your potted pond.

Two popular potted aquatic plants are:

Iris: These are absolutely beautiful and, in addition their beauty, also have a toxin-reducing effect on the water in your potted pond.

Nymphaea Odorata: For small ponds, this dwarf waterlily is a nice touch. It won’t overshadow other plants in the pot, but has a pretty white-and-yellow flower that accents the pot nicely.

Floating Aquatic Plants

As their name suggests, floating aquatic plants aren’t tethered to soil in any way – they get all of their nutrition from the water. They tend to take over the surface of the water, so be careful not to overuse these in your potted pond.

Water Hyacinth: Produces gorgeous light-violet sets of flowers, but can also invade the surface of your pot unless you prune it. Can grow up to 3 feet tall if left unchecked.

Water Lettuce: A unique floating plant that looks exactly like floating heads of lettuce. Like the water hyacinth, it too grows quickly and can use a lot of nutrients in the water, so prune aggressively.

Potted Pond Maintenance - Creating a Water Garden Oasis in a Pot

Potted ponds don’t require too much care to keep them in shape. However, there are a few key tasks you must stay on top of if you want your potted pond to look amazing for as long as possible.

Fertilizing: Because the floating aquatic plants in your water aren’t drawing nutrition from soil, you will need to fertilize your pot from time to time. This is as simple as using a water fertilizer tablet that you can pick up from most gardening stores.

Draining: Over time, plant matter will build up in the bottom of your pot. Once it’s over 2 inches thick, it’s time to drain your pot, clear out the dead plant matter, give your pot a good scrub, and then add water back to the system.

Topping Off: Unless you live in a rainy climate, you’ll need to top your pot off with fresh water a few times a week. In the driest climates, you may need to top off once or even twice a day. Most beginners forget this step and kill off their plants simply because there’s not enough water left in the pot to nourish them.

Pests: There aren’t too many pests that plague a potted pond, but mosquitos can be an issue. The wet, humid environment is a perfect feeding ground for them. The best way to prevent or control for mosquitos is to use a product called a “mosquito dunk.” You simply place it on the surface of the water and it will attract and kill mosquitos.

No matter what your level of experience is in gardening, a potted pond is a wonderful way to add variety and spice to your garden. It’s also a great way to get into ornamental gardening if you typically grow fruits, veggies, and herbs. Give it a try!

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